Marriage For Granny And Gramps

It's June, the traditional wedding month, which means I see a host of women's magazines on sale at the newsstands with glossy front covers showcasing dewy faced gorgeous young brides wearing extravagant gowns. Featured wedding stories inside the magazine often include such articles as how to hold a reception for under $20,000 or a story outlining this spring's hot fashion colors that the engaged couple's wedding entourage really ought to wear.

I used to be slightly offended that the featured brides, unlike the majority of the female human species, always looked like very young supermodels, with sleek shining hair, gorgeous figures, and groomed fingernails. These magazines portray sweet young ladies ready to begin married life with a partner as young and naïve as the brides themselves. Why not feature older brides, I wondered, those who married for the first or the second time later in their lives? Then it occurred to me that none of us second-hand, slightly used, and very wiser older women would even consider purchasing a brides' magazine, and that after all is the intent of the publication. How to hold a reception for under $20,000? Easy, don't have one. And those fancy dresses a new young bride wears? I haven't worn a dress since I married for the first time, which I can assure you did not happen yesterday or even in the last several decades. The second time around, which occurred nearly twenty years after the dissolution of my first marriage, my husband-to-be considered himself lucky that I didn't show up in blue jeans.

Second marriages generally prove vastly different than first marriages. I mean, the first time around the couple worries about who to invite to the ceremony, what pattern of dishes and silverware do they want, and in what font should they print their wedding invitations. The second time around, the bride and groom have more interest in planning for retirement than planning for a wedding, they strive to keep costs to a bare minimum, and they hope to remember to pop in their hearing aids so they can hear when it comes time to repeat the marriage vows. Experience, learned habits, and changed expectations and needs make a second marriage an entirely different proposition than the first time around.

In my case, my second marriage ceremony bore no resemblance to my first. Four decades ago at the ridiculously young age of 22 I actually wore a white dress to my wedding. I got married in a church by clergy, I hosted a small reception, and my equally young groom and I felt obligated to go on a honeymoon. We figured we would face life together and overcome all obstacles as we traveled through the years together.

Forty years later when I remarried for the second time, I knew my husband-to-be and I had journeyed along entirely different paths through our adult lives and that we would never grow old together. We already WERE older and as such, we needed to make the most of our remaining years. Our marriage, although important, did not consume our thoughts as the big day approached. We got married in my own back yard with a justice of the peace in attendance, and my husband-to-be and I only invited a few family members, two cherished friends, and several extraordinary neighbors to share the event with us. My husband barbecued hamburgers to feed the under ten people in attendance, my dog attended the ceremony and spent a lot of time cadging whatever treats she could convince guests to feed her, and we all had a great time that cost my new husband and me virtually nothing. By the way, although I did not wear a dress, I did wear a newly purchased pair of slacks and a decent shirt, rather than a grungy pair of blue jeans and a T-shirt of uncertain age which is my usual attire. Neither did we spend money on any sort of honeymoon.

After the second marriage, the newlyweds become intimately acquainted with the term 'his, hers, and ours'. A first marriage sees the couple accumulate possessions together, while in the second marriage, one never knows what a spouse will add to the combined assortment of earthly goods. In my case, my husband and I had been on our own for many years between marriages. Individually in that time frame we acquired a lot of paraphernalia that when we became a couple proved challenging to accommodate. I owned a small one bedroom house that I had lived in for fifteen years prior to my second marriage. I had the belongings I needed, and everything had a place that suited me well and fit my lifestyle.

Enter a man with his own possessions acquired through his single years that he wanted to bring to the marriage. We rearranged, discarded items, rearranged again, tossed a few more possessions, rearranged for a third time, and eventually reached a comfortable solution in our house that accommodated both our needs and took care of the his, hers, and ours dilemma.

We also transformed a dilapidated wreck of a building on my property into a very useful shop area that my husband Rod thoroughly enjoyed and fixed up to his liking.

A marriage that involves two older people can face the quandary of habit. Both Rod and I had spent many years as singles between our first and second marriages. I had my own way of doing things and my husband had developed his routines and ways of dealing with everyday life. We found to our chagrin that often we had two very different approaches to the same problem, and we couldn't understand why our spouse could not see how simple it would be to do it our way. The good aspect of this predicament however lies in the fact that we ARE older and wiser and we both have learned through the years what is worth arguing about and what is not. We usually remember what really matters and what is merely superfluous, and this marks a huge improvement over youngsters who argue about the silliest issues.

However, my new husband never truly felt that my house had become his house as well. Also, he had grown up in the mountains of Idaho and then spent thirty years in Wyoming, so his heart's desire was to return to mountain country. Couple this longing of his with the fact that we lived in eastern Montana near Sidney, a part of the state that has changed dramatically in the past five years thanks to the Bakken oil boom. Neither of us liked what had happened to our community, so at an age when most people expect to retire, I applied for and obtained a job in Virginia City, and we proceeded to move 500 miles from one end of Montana to the other.

I didn't like moving when I could claim spring chicken status, but I really detested this chore at the ripe old age of 65 plus. A move tests the mettle of any marriage, and it does not help one bit when the couple in question qualifies for senior discounts of all shapes and descriptions.

During this traumatic event, I figured I did an excellent job of weeding out household possessions I thought we no longer needed and did not have to move. I assumed my husband would do the same when it came to discarding redundant or worn out tools in his shop.

In retrospect, I suppose I am still a naïve bride of twenty years young. First of all, half of what we moved turned out to be items from Rod's shop. We arrived in Virginia City with our belongings, and as I unloaded a five gallon pail filled exclusively with hammers of all sizes and shapes, I was stunned. Then I unloaded a second five gallon pail filled only with wrenches. I haven't even mentioned screwdrivers yet. I would guesstimate that if my husband laid out all the screwdrivers he owns from end to end, this profusion of the same tool would stretch from Bozeman to Billings. I mean, really? Did we have to move all these tools?

When I confronted my husband about this excess and asked if we actually needed 4592 screwdrivers, four tons of wrenches, and enough hammers to supply all the contractors in the entire state of Texas, he solemnly assured me that yes, we certainly did.

So this left me puzzled. Before my marriage, I owned two hammers, a set of box end wrenches, one adjustable wrench, one pipe wrench, a pair of fencing pliers, and a small assortment of screwdrivers, all of which fit in one drawer, and together they got me safely through the majority of my adult life. Now I discovered that I courted disaster by not owning this huge inventory of basic tools. I wonder now how I ever survived.

I was annoyed until I remembered the numerous boxes of books that I moved across the state to our new home. I decided that books mean to me what tools mean to my husband, and that each of us requires our own special items that complete us. If Rod figures he needs forty-seven Phillips screwdrivers to make his life complete, he can have them.

I think in first marriages, a couple begins life testing the waters together, and they either learn how to swim as a team or they sink and drift apart. Allow an interval of time to pass between and first and second marriages, and perceptions and needs change as we age. An older newly married couple does not have to test the waters of life together. Rather, they can complement the other, bring their own unique perspective and past experiences to the union, and they can point out to their spouse potential whirlpools and how to avoid them. Instead of trying to amass wealth, plotting how to get ahead in their chosen career, and flaunting perceived success through outward appearances, older newlyweds tend to scale down and to see the value in eliminating the unnecessary trappings.

Certainly older newlyweds still disagree, argue, and become annoyed with their spouses, but we have a lifetime of experience behind us that reminds us that time is short, what we quibble about really doesn't matter in the scheme of the universe, and that at our age, what we really want is to cuddle at night, keep each other warm, offer support of all kinds, and to do what we can to make our remaining years as comfortable and peaceful as possible. We have no family to raise and no planned career moves; rather we desire peace and companionable quiet, and someone to let us know that even if the hair has grayed, body parts have acquiesced to gravity's demands, and the eyesight has grown dim, someone still cares about us and cherishes us in spite of our flaws. That means the world to older newlyweds


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